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Annette L. Stanton, PhD
Professor, Psychology and Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences
Member, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
University of California
Los Angeles, California
Goal: To improve quality of life through evidence-based interventions that promote the health and well-being of women during and after breast cancer treatment.
Impact: Dr. Stanton is conducting studies focused on understanding the challenges of adherence to endocrine therapy, coping with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), avoiding depression, and living well as an African American woman diagnosed with breast cancer. Her findings will inform effective interventions that can extend the lives and improve quality of life in patients with advanced breast cancer.
What’s next: Dr. Stanton and her team will continue to test interventions that promote endocrine therapy adherence and improve coping skills in women with MBC. She also plans to survey the experiences of a larger group of African American breast cancer survivors across the United States.
Every person diagnosed with breast cancer experiences this disease in a unique manner, but there are some aspects of the condition that many women share. These include depression, anxiety, and enduring side effects from therapy. In addition, African American women who have breast cancer face specific challenges that have a negative effect on their quality of life. Dr. Stanton is developing and testing interventions that address these issues, which she hopes will improve both breast cancer outcomes and well-being.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Understanding and promoting quality of life of women during and after breast cancer treatment.
Impact: While no two women will experience the diagnosis and treatment for their breast cancer in exactly the same way, there are certain emotional and physical challenges that many share, such as adhering to endocrine therapy and managing depression and anxiety. For others, cultural stereotypes may impede their health and well-being. Dr. Stanton is conducting several studies aimed at addressing these issues in order to enhance patients’ lives.
Current investigation: Dr. Stanton’s current BCRF research is focused on understanding the challenges with adherence to endocrine therapy, coping with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), and avoiding depression. Her team is also investigating the thoughts and behaviors associated with being strong (i.e., suppressing emotions or taking care of others before herself) that may negatively affect the health and well-being of African American women diagnosed with breast cancer.
What she’s learned so far: Highlights from her ongoing studies include:
- Understanding adherence to therapy. Women tend to over-report adherence to endocrine therapy. Based on a study published in the journal, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, where Dr. Stanton and her team compared self-reported adherence to electronic monitoring.
- Managing symptoms of depression with expressive writing and accepting diagnosis. Women with metastatic breast cancer who kept a journal had an improvement in symptoms of depression. According to a study in which Dr. Stanton’s team studied the effect of expressive writing in women living with MBC, women whose essays showed that they were able to gain some perspective and see their experiences as understandable in the context of MBC experienced less depression.
- Women at risk for depression who took part in a preliminary test of a 5-hour psychological intervention demonstrated an improvement in these coping skills and a decline in depressive symptoms. Women who were able to cope with their breast cancer experience by accepting the diagnosis, expressing their emotions, and making little use of avoidance tactics had few symptoms of depression or recovered well from initially severe symptoms during the 16 months after their cancer diagnosis.
What’s next: Dr. Stanton will continue to examine the unique experiences of African American women diagnosed with breast cancer, with a focus on the relevance and consequences of the “strong black woman” concept in the context of breast cancer. Thus far, African American women have met in three gatherings to share their experiences. Dr. Stanton and her community partner are now working toward the next step of surveying the experiences of a larger group of African American breast cancer survivors across the United States.
Annette L. Stanton, PhD, is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry/Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, senior research scientist at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, and a member of the Center for Cancer Prevention and Control Research in the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her research centers on specifying factors that promote psychological and physical health in individuals who confront health-related adversity, including cancer, infertility, and other medical conditions. She is particularly interested in the conditions under which specific coping processes promote or hinder health and well-being. In the area of psychosocial oncology, Dr. Stanton conducts longitudinal research to understand the influences of personality and contextual resources, cognitive appraisals, and coping processes on the quality of life and health in individuals diagnosed with or at risk for a range of cancers, including cancer of the breast, eye, lung, and prostate. She then works to translate her findings into effective interventions for individuals living with cancer through conducting randomized, controlled trials of psychosocial interventions. In 2003, Dr. Stanton received the Senior Investigator Award from Division 38 (Health Psychology) of the American Psychological Association, and in 2012-13 she served as President of Division 38. In 2013, she received the Society of Behavioral Medicine Cancer Special Interest Group Award for Outstanding Achievement in Behavioral Medicine and Psycho-Oncologic Research. She has received awards for undergraduate teaching and graduate mentoring. In 2006, Professor Stanton was honored with the J. Arthur Woodward Graduate Mentoring Award and the Distinguished Teaching Award in the UCLA Department of Psychology.
BCRF Investigator Since
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